Extension cable distance between controller and strip lights

Discussion in 'RGB Lights - Intelligent Pixels and 3-Channel RGB' started by tt9900, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. tt9900

    tt9900 New Elf

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    What is the general limit on the length for extension cable between a controller and a strip light?
    I'm doing some research and was wondering what the farthest distance might be that I can place a strip from the controller and power supply unit. I figure closer, multiple controllers would fix this issue, but I'm curious if it can be done with a centralized controller.
    Some information for the potential setup would be:
    30led / meter 10 pixel per meter strip and a 16 output aplhapix controller
    Two 350w 12vpower supplies, one per bank, one strip per output
    18 AWG extension cable, pigtails on either end, connected to pigtails coming out of the controller and the strips

    My absolute farthest strip might be 60ft / 18 meters feet from the controller. The next farthest 55 ft, then 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25. These 8 would be on one bank and be located for example to the left of the controller. The other bank would have strips located to the right of the controller, all closer than the closest strip from the other bank.

    Actual straight line distance is less, like 40 ft for the farthest strip, but these measurements allow for flexibility around obstructions and an easier route to the controller.

    Ideally I would be able to place the controller right in the middle of the left and right, but the only practical way seems to be a location that puts it closer to the right side strips.

    Would these or some of these distances require power injection or a null pixel, or both, or anything else? From what I've seen, after 25 feet or 7-8 meters might need at least power injection. Are there any other issues to consider even if this was the case?
     
  2. scamper

    scamper Senior Elf

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    I have not had any problem with going those sort of distances. I use cat5 cable for the signal though and then use heavy duty 10a twin core for the power. Unless it is a single strand of pixels I always run power through the twin core and inject along the line.
     
  3. wce06

    wce06 New Elf

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    When you say you use cat5 do you run 1 colour as data and another as gnd (-ve)? Do you also use the remaining wires for other connections or just cut them off?


    wce06
     
  4. scamper

    scamper Senior Elf

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    I use 1 colour as data and 1 as ground. I have actually been twisting pairs together and have had no problem.
    There are probably reasons why I shouldn't but it all works, so why change?
    The other wires I just cut off. Unless I run power on single strands etc, then I use the other pairs for power.


    If you have dramas, then just add a null pixel, although I haven't had to as yet.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    tt9900

    tt9900 New Elf

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    Thanks for the replies. I gotta look into maybe using cat5. It's new to me but I'll be doing some research anyway so I can see how that might work.

    If using the 18 gauge 3 core wire, is that still likely to need power injection or a null pixel at those distances? I know a thicker wire would help, but let's say everything is the same 18 gauge (pigtails and cables).


    Also I'm curious since one bank of 8 on the controller would have strips at distances of 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25 ft from the controller, would a power supply typically be powering this bank through the controller like the other bank of closer strips, or should the power supply be moved closer to the ends of the strips in a sort of power injection setup instead, and not in the controller? Or would I need 2 power supplies, one per bank with the controller, plus another one to power inject those strips?
     
  6. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    Ive never been a big fan of using CAT5 for power due to the fact that the CAT5 that most will use is solid core which is designed for permanent installation as the cores can break easily when installed in a temporary situation as used in ten hobby. The issue can come when you double up cores to take the current and then a core breaks thus making the single core take all the current causing an overload condition which in extreme cases could start a fire. Using multi strand CAT5 is too expensive in may cases and so the cheap alternative is to use security cable as this is multi-stranded and much less susceptible to breaking a core

    The general limit of the length is determined by 2 main factors based on Ohms law.

    1: Cable Resistance is determined by the gauge/size of the cable core and the total length for both the positive and ground wires
    2: Load Current is the actual amps going through the cable for the load

    There are several voltage drop calculators you can use but generally if using 5vdc you have much less head room as you have less voltage to spare and higher voltage drop considerations due to the higher current needed compared to if using 12vdc

    Try using this great and simple voltage calculator from David_AVD to get an idea on what your voltage drop will be

    http://www.da-share.com/calculators/cable-voltage-drop/
     
  7. Fing

    Fing Full Time Elf Generous Elf

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    Hi
    there are lots of variables in any set up. To answer your first question I can get a good 12m from my controller to the first strip but the inter strip distance is only about 2-3m max. The controllers basically have higher powered driver chips where as the nodes chips are a much lower power version. I use 1.5mm 3 core power extension cable, which is about 14AWG ??


    I seriously consider looking at getting a falcon controller instead of the alpha pix. the falcon is a better product (IMHO) and it has the ability to add differential drive expansion boards that will allow you more options. Pixlite also make diff expansion boards and are a solid controller as well. Both products have great service and support.


    The two big issues with distance are data degradation and voltage drop. Data can be solved with proper comms cable such as Cat5/6 and voltage drop with larger cables. Perhaps the larger cable is also a cheaper solution to the data problem as well. Cat 5 is only 24AWG and cat 6 is 22AWG ? neither are really great for running lots of power over distance.


    As with all things your mileage will vary.


    to get a better answer, draw up your proposal and submit it for review. I'm sure you'll only get 35000 different answers. :p


    Cheers
    Shane
     
  8. smartalec

    smartalec Im a SmartAlec what can i say! Community Project Designer

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